Ayers Saint Gross celebrates Green Week annually to elevate sustainability literacy within our staff, advance high-performance design for our clients, and celebrate our sustainability achievements over the last year. Each year, Green Week includes a selection of continuing education events as well as social engagement to support us in building our community.
On Monday, we heard from Paul Torcellini of the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) about the future of energy generation across the US electric grid and the design implications that may present for buildings. His presentation helped us understand the necessity of aligning energy consumption with the times when renewable energy is most available and the impact peak loads have on the cleanliness of electricity generation. “We are mortgaging our energy future based on what we design and build today,” Paul said, giving an excellent reminder that the daily work of the design community is a critical part of the path toward global carbon neutrality.
On Tuesday, Prudence Ferreira of BR+A shared information about Passive House. Prudence explained that Passive House projects aim to be “carbon neutral ready,” emphasizing energy efficiency and drastic reductions in the use of fossil fuels. She illustrated how Passive House is not just about thicker walls and extra insulation, but carefully identifying a building’s heating and cooling demands, the design of a detailed airtight envelope, and how the configurations of windows affect energy efficiency. Prudence also showed examples of how housing, higher education, and healthcare facilities could all benefit from Passive House strategies.
In the afternoon, we gathered for Tell Me Tuesday, a recurring event from our People + Culture committee. We gathered to discuss sustainable lifestyles and the best no-waste products we’ve found for our homes. We also got to enjoy some trivia together and build connections across our employee-owners.
Wednesday featured a presentation from our own Elizabeth McLean and Allison Wilson on the AIA Framework for Design Excellence. Descended from the COTE Top Ten measures, this industry definition of good design overlaps all of our firm’s core focus areas–carbon, data, design, and equity. After learning more about the framework, we reviewed projects from our various disciplines that engage elements of the framework. This session’s conversation is anticipated to continue as part of our annual firmwide Collaboration Day in May.
On Thursday, we celebrated this year’s Carrot Awards, our in-house program that celebrates the year’s highest performing whole building architectural and interiors projects in our AIA2030 Commitment reporting as well as projects in graphic design, landscape architecture, and planning that are accelerating our path toward carbon neutrality.
This year we were excited to celebrate five projects with Carrot Awards. In planning, we recognized the Iowa State University Strategic Facilities Plan that emphasized the preservation of campus’ existing embodied carbon while improving building performance. At full build-out, the project is anticipated to add relatively little net new gross square footage to the campus portfolio while right-sizing spaces to meet needs and evolving pedagogical and enrollment trends.
In architecture we were pleased to celebrate the University of California, Berkeley Albany Graduate Student Housing project. This building, owned and operated by American Campus Communities, is targeting LEED Gold certification and features no on-site combustion as well as a rooftop photovoltaic array to meet part of the project’s energy demands. This high-efficiency project is our best performing project for predicted energy use intensity within the whole building architectural projects we reported in our AIA2030 Commitment data this year.
We’re happy to celebrate the Smithsonian Institution Capital Gallery 3rd and 4th Floor Tenant Improvements as the project with the greatest percent reduction in lighting power density. Through a combination of LED lights as well as daylight sensors, this project is anticipated to reduce lighting power density 68% compared to baseline. This fit out also modifies sequencing in the building scale HVAC systems to further reduce energy consumption.
In landscape architecture we bestowed a Carrot Award to the Ringling College of Art + Design Cunniffee Commons. This project’s landscape design includes substantial grasses, perennials, and trees that are anticipated to sequester 240 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide at maturity–equivalent to the impact of driving over 580,000 miles in an average passenger vehicle!
Last but certainly not least, we recognized the Gustavus Adolphus College Signage and Wayfinding Master Plan and Implementation for its integrated system of vehicular and pedestrian directional signage, parking identification signage, maps and architectural lettering, and interior building signage. This project extends the brand of the university into its physical campus environment in a sustainable, long-term way, thanks to durable, local stone bases for exterior signage and flexible signage systems that can easily change messages without wasting extra resources.
Friday featured Larry Strain of Siegel & Strain and Lori Ferriss of Goody Clancy who showcased an emerging tool to quantify the carbon impact of various design strategies that will help our clients better understand the implications of renovating existing buildings as opposed to demolishing them and building new.
In total, our Green Week was a fantastic success, involving over 125 members of our firm and awarding 400 hours of continuing education. We can’t wait to continue the celebration of Green Week all year long and put this information to work in current and future projects.